Hello Liene, could you please introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Liene. I’m 28 years old (young) girl. I have education in fashion design, entrepreneurship and culture management.
I’m interested in meeting inspiring travellers from different countries via couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org, also I’m eager to learn more about wellness and traditional plants in Latvian natural habitat. I spent most of my childhood in the countryside of the western part of Latvia – Kurzeme. Since then I have been exploring and watching the natural world around me during my free time.
Have you ever gone for a hike?
I truly enjoy hiking as well as backpacking, outdoor camping and cycling. Usually, trips have been planned together with my boyfriend (Vitalijs). We do hikes or cycling trips at least one weekend every month. My interest for longer hikes started with outdoor recreational activity Geocaching way before I had proper outdoor gear.
Since then I have been hiking in Romania in Piatra Craiului National park. The trail starts from Orasul Zarnesti to Brana Caprelor 1960m over the valleys which were of great difficulty, with many exposed passages.
The more adventurous and spontaneous hike was in Svaneti, a region in western Georgia. Hike took me 5 days to get from Pari village to Mazeri village and from Mestia to Ushguli which led over a 2700m high peak. Another spectacular experience was a hike to 1703m high Egon volcano summit (Indonesia, Flores).
What about hiking in your country ?
I think that Latvia is unique because of the untouched nature. Dense forests, bogs and peat fields, meadows, lakes, and rivers but unfortunately no mountains. It’s easy to find a camping spot for free in the middle of nowhere. Each season has its own charm. I have put out there 100+ hiking trails and cycling routes in Latvia also I share my love for nature on Instagram.
One of the last adventures before Corsica was a 130km long-distance hike along the coast of the Baltic Sea which is a part of the Baltic Coastal Hiking route totalling 1200km – more information here.
What about the GR20 ? When did you hike there and which way?
Together with Vitalijs we joined a local adventure agency “Hiking in Latvia”, who focus on providing international long-distance hiking trips.
On June 2, we started our hike from the South (Conca) and completed the Northern part (finish in Calenzana) by June 13. There were several reasons for this:
- The solar panel came in handy because the sun shines directly on your back.
- We had the opportunity to acclimatize in the new environment before the more challenging parts of the trail in the North.
- And luckily for us, by the time we reached the northern part, almost all snow on the path had already melted.
What was the context for hiking the GR20 ? How did you prepare yourself to this target?
I knew that this experience would teach me a lot. More mentally.
I knew my gear very well, I was used carrying 8-13kg backpack, to sleep in a tent wasn’t a problem and so on. My only concern was about the weather conditions and technical parts (snow, chains, loose rocks). So, I watched several GR20 vlogs, did some research on your website and got my mind ready for the uncomfortable part. A great book I read about mental training for climbers is “The Rock Warrior’s Way” by Arno Ilgner. Almost 6 months before GR20 I intentionally started core training, also incorporating stretching and explosive movements (stair exercises, box jumps, etc.) because I knew that in some parts you need speed and rhythm to reach next rock platform.
What equipment did you bring ?
In my opinion, it is crucial to know and trust your gear. In our case, we shared the equipment so the bags were relatively light for me ~11kg for Vitalijs ~13kg, including water.
Without the clothes Vitalijs also carried:
- Portable solar charger (20W)
- Power banks 10000mah
- Canon G7X II camera
- Tent (Marmot Tungsten UL /1.6kg)
- Backpack (Granite Gear X60, 60L /1.1kg)
- Mattress (Thermarest NeoAir XTherm /0.57kg)
- Sleeping bag (Mammut -5C /1080g)
- Hydration system (3l)
- Trekking poles (Pioneer)
- Backpack (Osprey Stratos, 36l /1.49kg)
- Hydration system(2l)
- Mattress (Mammut Lahar Mat EHT /0.57kg)
- Sleeping bag (Aegismax -5C/1006g)
- Trekking poles (Quechua Forclaz)
- Outdoor utensils, toiletries (Packtowl, Lush shampoo bar, etc.), headlamp, waterproof bag, PVC duct tape, etc.
- First aid kit, also elastic wrap band, sun cream, anti-chafing cream with talc and zinc oxide, Voltaren emulgel, recovery powder with magnesium
- Vasque hiking boots (with Gore-tex, Vibram, provide reasonable ankle support)
- 2 Thorlos socks, cap with neck flap, buff, running gloves, 2 light t-shirts, underwear, swimsuit
- Patagonia trekking base layer with thumb loops and hood (permanent odor control, thumb loops help cover hands), Mammut fleece jacket, The North Face jacket (100% windproof fabric, waterproof)
- Hiking pants (quick-dry, lightweight, zip-off shorts), 2XU compression tights, waterproof trousers, thermal pants
Food weighed about 1kg (for each of us) of the total weight of the backpack (canned food, pasta, rice, homemade dehydrated energy bars, etc.) for 1-2 day ration until we met the supporting van. We enjoyed fresh cheese, cold Coca-Cola and beer purchased at a refuge. Also, there were moments when we met our supporting team van and at that moment we could eat whatever we brought from our home. Mostly I craved for something salty or juicy like pistachios or oranges. I have to mention that on everyday basis I don’t drink soda but let me tell you that cold Coca-Cola on top of the summit never tasted so good. Energy booster for sure!
Still snow-covered on some part of the way ?
There were snow patches on the way from Petra Piana to Manganu, not that I needed crampons but because of melting snow and rock cracks beneath it in a distance we saw air rescue. We tried to bypass the snow areas. Another challenging part with steep scrambling sections and snow were around Monte Cinto ridge.
That was the only time my knees started to shake a bit. If there are more than two people in the line, you have not only to keep balance but to move carefully so that loose rocks mixed with snow and dirt don’t hit somebody else.
What are your positive feedbacks?
The weather conditions were superb! The views all day long and every day where magnificent and diverse.
Also, I couldn’t ask for a better team, filled with laughter and support when it was necessary. No blisters or wounds! I’m grateful for the body that is capable of bringing me up mountains. I felt mentally and physically strong because I was prepared for the worse. I soaked in every moment even when my pulse was skyrocketing at the beginning. Embrace the moment!
What about the negative feedbacks ?
There were some not so freshly painted signs, I think that in bad weather conditions it can be confusing.
I knew that taking a shower will be like an adventure itself. High pitched voices were hilarious, but the sad part was that at Usciolu refuge the wooden shower door was ruined.
TMI for the ladies out there – take into account that this is a great physical challenge for your body and it can affect your cycle.
Which was your favourite stage, and your favourite shelter?
All shelters were different and charming in their own way. I liked Bergerie de Ballone but since we combined multi-day routes, I didn’t have a chance to stay there. However delicious home-baked lemon cake with coffee was like a perfect brunch and the atmosphere was very welcoming. Also, Manganu refuge was located in a beautiful spot by the river, where I spent my evening with a glass of rose wine.
My favourite stage was Vizzavona – Refuge de l’Onda. It was the midpoint between the southern and northern parts of the GR20. I enjoyed my way up to the summit, there were impressive water pools and cliffs. Great place for a lunch break because of the proximity to a water source.
If you should hike again GR20, what would you change?
We hiked all the way from Haut Asco refuge to Ortu di u Piobbu in one day but instead, I would prefer to stay at Carrozzu refuge and continue the journey the next day. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything.
Which advices could you share with people whom are think to go for a GR20’s hike?
- Take regular breaks every hour or two, take your shoes off to dry your socks or change them – it is so beneficial and rejuvenating.
- The hydration system facilitates the drinking process, and the water stayed cooler for a longer time.
- Start and finish your day with body stretching to avoid painful joints and muscles.
Would you like to suggest something else?
Be patient, be fearless and be ready!
Thank you so much Liene for this GR20 interview ! That’s true, GR20 experience is an adventure as well phycical as mental ! Now, let’s come back on the links you have just shared with us, I’m sure there are many hiking pathways to discover in Latvia with such an untouched nature as you described ! Now, let’s watch the video :
Thank you again Liene !